25 August 2013

Homage to home

I’ve had lots of homes in my life – in fact, a quick count reveals that my latest move brings the total to 27.

My first 17 years were spent in the bosom of my family, in the little town of Ngaruawahia, where I was born. The first few years were in a two-bedroom state house, then we moved to a larger state house in the next street soon after my brother was born. That was home for about 14 years and is where my many wonderful childhood memories are based.

Our family home in Ngaruawahia

Dorset St (the red cast is a result of
 using Kodak film in the 70s)
At 17, I went to Auckland for university, and lived a riotous life in a student hostel, before dropping out and heading off to Sydney with a friend for my first, rather short overseas adventure. There were two small, rather grotty flats in Sydney.

After that hot summer, I returned to New Zealand and a flat with 3 others in Kohimarama, followed by my first experience of living alone in half of an old house in Herne Bay. Next came a move with my job at TVNZ to Christchurch, where I lived in 4 different places in the 18 months I spent there. My first home there was in the heritage-listed Dorset Street Flats, which I see from googling suffered some damage in the 2011 earthquake; the others, in old wooden houses, appear to have survived intact.

The Ponsonby house in 2011 (image
from Ray White Realty)
Back in Auckland, I lived first on the waterfront in Kohimarama, in a flat owned by Sir Michael Fay, who lived next door and wasn’t then a ‘sir’. From there I had a few months in a little place in Mission Bay but on the wrong side of the hill, before purchasing my very first home of my own, a wonderful two-storey colonial house in Ponsonby, in the days before the developers moved in. I bought that house for about $27,000 and it’s probably now worth over a million! It was a very social house, the setting for many parties and Sundays ‘at home’. Next was a short interlude of just a couple of months in a concrete-block flat in Parnell, which was very cold but my bedroom had the most wonderful view of the museum and the greenery of The Domain.

And then my next journey to foreign shores got underway, with my first home a bedsit in the Edinburgh suburb of Stockbridge, in a Georgian terrace house that was built before New Zealand was settled – I loved that sense of history, and that marvellous city, particularly as I was footloose and fancy free during the time of the annual festival so roamed the streets enjoying daily doses of culture. But I craved the snow so headed north to the mountains, a job in a hotel and 6 months in their staff hostel. I loved that place too, the daily wilderness walks and the grandeur of those mountains … and the wild whisky-filled winter nights.

Stockbridge, Edinburgh (mine was one of those first floor windows) (image from an Edinburgh realtor)

It was in Aviemore that I met my future husband and my next move was in with him, much to his parents’ initial horror, in a bedsit in Glasgow’s Queens Park in a ‘blonde sandstone building of striking architecture c.1900'. That was mostly a cosy little place, though the bizzie-lizzies on the window seat froze solid one particularly freezing mid-winter night when the temperature descended to minus 17!

Queen's Park, Glasgow (ours were the two windows below ground level at the left) (image from a Glasgow realtor)

After a couple of years, by which time we were married, we set off on the longest possible honeymoon … nine months spent travelling back to New Zealand. I haven’t counted any of those places we stayed as homes, though we did get rather attached to a very cheap bedroom in an unfinished hotel run by a Greek named Giorgos on the island of Ios and lingered there a couple of months

In Papakura, I became something of a gardener

Arriving back in New Zealand rather broke, we dossed down with Mum and Dad in Ngaruawahia for a short time (I haven’t counted that either) before moving to Papakura, not by choice but because the ex had a specialised profession and that’s where the work was. We rented for perhaps 18 months, saving every possible penny, before buying our first home together.

The Titirangi house

After 13 years in Papakura, my second-longest abode, we bought our second home, in Auckland’s bush-filled suburb of Titirangi, where I lived for 5½ years, before leaving the marital home and moving into my bachelorette pad in the rather stylish Connaught apartment block in central Auckland city.

The bachelorette pad (images from my latest realtor)
After 5½ years my itchy feet got the better of me once again and my third overseas adventure led me to Peru, where I spent 18 months in a nice little place in Cusco, another physically cold abode but with the spiritual warmth of the friendly locals as compensation. From Peru, I travelled half way around the world to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where I hopped from one guesthouse to another and then one more in the 6 months I was there.

My last abode in Siem Reap

From there back to Auckland, to that dinky little bachelorette pad with its fabulous views over the inner city and down the sparkling Waitemata harbour. And though I returned to sell that place and become a vagabond, I found the opportunity instead to remain in the same building but downsize was too good to pass over, so my latest and current home is in the same building, with almost the same view but much less space. I’m still unpacking my books, settling in, getting cosy, putting my pictures up … but this new home has a really good feeling to it. It may be small but it’s perfectly formed!

My new home

* Please note that many of the photos shown here are not my own but were found seemingly freely available on the internet. I have added acknowledgements where known. If I have unknowingly used one of your photos and you'd like it removed or acknowledged, I apologise and ask that you contact me.

21 August 2013

More Teutenberg heads

I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs about the marvellous sculptures of Prussian immigrant Anton Teutenberg that he was also responsible for the adornments to be found on the Pitt Street Methodist Church here in central Auckland.

The church, c.1898

The church, originally known as the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church, was built in 1865-66 and was much admired at the time. I defer for a fulsome description to the eloquent, if rather verbose writer of this article in the Daily Southern Cross of 13 October 1866 (I have deleted a lot of this piece):

The foundation-stone of the Wesleyan Church, Pitt street, was laid on the 15th November, 1865, with befitting ceremony. The church has now been completed, and will be opened for public worship to-morrow (Sunday), with, appropriate religious services. We purpose giving some details of the building, in order that our readers may form an estimate of its architectural character. It was constructed from designs prepared by Mr. P. Herapath, architect, Queen-street. The style of architecture adopted is the Gothic of the second period. The site chosen is eligible in every respect, as being more central for the increased population of the southern and western suburbs of the city. It is in close proximity to the Karangahape Road and from its elevated and commanding position the building presents a noble and imposing appearance, viewed from any direction.
… The structure is 78 feet by 48 feet, clear of the wall, the outer dimensions being 82 feet by 52 feet. On the flank walls are four massive buttresses, with two on the back wall, and one on each angle. … We may here remark, in justice to the contractor, Mr. Kaye, Parnell, that this piece of scoria masonry is considered by all competent judges to be one of the best specimens of scoria mason-work in the province.
… The whole of the brick walls are faced with pressed bricks, manufactured by Mr. Henry Holland, North Road, set in putty. The facade of the edifice has two hold buttresses running up the entire height, and which above the hue of intersection with the gable are surmounted with masonry of an ornamental character. The apex of the gable is finished with four gablets crocketed, from the centre of which springs a pinnacle surmounted with a boldly-carved finial. There are, also, two corresponding buttresses on the angles, terminating at the base of the gable. A freestone string course runs across the front at the height of the springing of the arches of the doorways, and intersecting them. Between the two central buttresses in the facade is a large and handsome traceried window, 28 feet high and 13 feet wide, in three lights, the head of which is filled in and enriched with elaborate tracery. On each side, between the central buttresses and those on the angles, are two single-light windows, 16 feet high and 2 feet wide, Gothic-headed, and filled in with trefoil tracery. Over the central window is a trefoil louvred opening for ventilation. The heads of all the windows in front have hood moulds around, terminating in masks.
… The cost of erecting and completing the building will be about £7,000. In concluding our notice, we have only to add the expression of our opinion that the building, for architectural beauty, uniformity of design, consistency of details, and solidity of construction, is unsurpassed if, indeed, equalled by any ecclesiastical edifice in any city of the Southern hemisphere, and redounds to the credit of Mr. Herapath, and those who had the carrying out of the designs under his careful supervision.
As we have stated, the opening services will be held to-morrow, as notified by advertisement. There will be a public prayer-meeting at 7 o'clock, a.m. The service in the forenoon will be conducted by the Rev. J. Warren. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the Rev. James Hill will conduct public worship and the Rev. J. Buller at half-past 6 in the evening. At the close of each service, which no doubt will be largely attended, a collection will be made in aid of the building fund. On the following Wednesday evening, a musical soiree, which promises to be an attractive and successful entertainment, will be held, the proceeds of admission tickets to be devoted to the building fund.

Surprisingly, given the detail of this report, Teutenberg’s work on the church’s decoration is not mentioned but it has since been recognised and acknowledged. Only two of his carved stone heads have been identified; those on either side of the large traceried window on the main façade depict, appropriately enough, John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist faith.

As can be seen from the old and recent photographs, there have been some structural changes to the church since its initial construction (the NewZealand Historic Places Trust website provides more information). The bricks may have disappeared beneath a coating of paint but this remains one of Auckland’s most impressive heritage buildings and boasts fine examples of Teutenberg’s magnificent sculptural work.

04 August 2013

Three go mad in Piha

Piha beach is about 40 kilometres from central Auckland city, on the west coast. The mighty Tasman Sea rolls – sometimes thunders – onto this long stretch of black iron-sand, which is divided by the huge and iconic Lion Rock. Though the rock is looking less and less like a lion as water and wind erode its leonine profile, it is still an easily-recognisable feature of what is, arguably, New Zealand’s best-known surf beach.

Surfing and swimming here can be dangerous, as the beach has rips and currents that can pull your feet out from under you in an instant so, in summer, it’s always best to swim between the flags. In the winter, the volunteer lifeguards leave those crazy enough to swim the cold waters to guard their own safety and there are usually only a few hardy surfers braving the waves.

On Saturday it was wonderfully warm, considering it’s mid winter, and the forecast rain had not yet arrived, though the clouds rolling in from the north east hinted at a few showers later – and also made for some dramatic skies. We had a mouth-wateringly delicious lunch at the Piha Café before our walk – their Ginger Steamer was divine – then walked that off along the sands.

It’s a great place for a walk, especially in winter, when the black sand hasn’t been heated by the sun’s rays to sole-scorching temperatures. You can climb up part of the Lion – the path to the very top has now been closed due to crumbling rock – as my friends Sue and Rosie did yesterday, leaving me to stroll the shore looking for photo opportunities. 

We didn’t exactly go as mad as my title implies, but we did come away invigorated by the refreshing blast of sea air. A superb afternoon!